Richard S. Page, chief of the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration and formerly executive director of Seattle's transit system, was named yesterday to succeed Theodore C. Lutz as general manager of Washington Metro.

Page, 41, to be the third general manager of Metro since its creation in 1968, will assume his new responsibilities early in May, he said yesterday. His salary will be $60,000 annually, $2,000 more than that paid Lutz.

Lutz will officially leave Metro May 7, although he will be on vacation starting April 20. He startled the Metro Board in January when he announced his resignation, stating he was "burned out" after 2 1/2 years on the job.

Page has had almost two years in his federal job here to observe close at hand Lutz' problems in managing Metro's bus and subway system, which carries area residents on more than half a million trips a day. He said he was willing to accept the Metro job because of its challenge.

"I have worked in federal government, in the university and in local government," he said. "The greatest challenge is local government... and I'm looking forward to getting out of the federal papermill."

He also said that the new federal ethics law, which effectively prohibits employes from taking related jobs outside the federal government after July 1, was a major factor.

Page was the Metro Board's only real candidate almost from the beginning, and that fact also contributed to Page's willingness to take the Metro job. He was also under consideration for a new, higher-paying transit job in New York City.

Metro Board Chairman Jerry A. Moore Jr., also a member of the District of Columbia City Council, headed the search committee that approached Page.Page and Moore flew back together from San Diego after a recent national transit convention and discussed the job here.

But it was not until early yesterday morning that Page told the search committee he would accept the appointment if it were offered. The full board met in executive session before yesterday's regularly scheduled board meeting to formally hire Page.

Page, married and the father of three children, lives in Arlington County, about six blocks from Lutz.Like Lutz, he takes the bus and subway to work, transferring at the Rosslyn Metro station to come into the city.

Page has been intimately involved in Metro's financial problems over the past two years He has headed a federal task force including representatives from the Office of Management and Budget, the White House and the Department of Transportation, that studied Metro problems last summer before committing the Carter administration to "support the goal of completing the 100mile system." That position brought him in frequent contact with Metro Board members.

As UMTA administrator, Page is familiar with the very same congressional committees and staff members who handled Metro budget matters as part of the national transportation program. He is also a former legislative assistant to Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.).

Finally, he has experience in managing a big-city transit system and in dealing with a complicated, multi-jurisdictional governing board.

The Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle -- the formal title for Seattle Metro -- has a 37-member board. It manages not only Seattle's transit system of buses and trolleys but also the water and sewer network.

When Page assumed the job of executive director of Seattle Metro in 1974, he was faced with reorganizing a moribund bus operation. He replaced a number of key supervisors and established firm management controls there, according to Seattle transit officials.

Charles T. Collins, the director of operations for Seattle transit, who was recruited by Page, said, "I would call Page a reflective man. He wants time to study an issue and he wants information on it. But when he moves, he moves rapidly. There was almost a replacement a week around here for a while."

The result has been a transit system that others look to for advice on marketing, operations, experimental fares and many other topics.

Under Page, Seattle implemented a free-fare downtown bus zone subsidized and supported by merchants. Bus stop signs contain helpful information on where buses go; transit schedules and route mpas are easy for outsiders to understand.

Page visited Seattle last week and discussed the Washington Metro job with, among others, Carey Donworth, chairman of Seattle Metro. "There is no question he is excited about the D.C. operation," Donworth said in a telephone interview. "I think he perceives a challenge there..."

Page himself said yesterday, "8What Metro needs -- and everybody knows it -- is a firm source of dedicated [tax] revenue [to pay for the operating deficit]. Passing the hat among local governments has worked, but it has made life extremely difficult."

Page said he was persuaded by board members, however, that local governments would continue to finance Metro's operations from general revenues until a permanent, earmarked source of money is established.

Metro's combined operating deficit for bus and subway is budgeted at $120 million in fiscal 1980. The subway construction program is at least $1 billion short of the $7 billion needed to complete the 100 miles. Furthermore, the federal government has limited Metro to $275 million in federal construction assistance annually, while Metro says it needs $400 million to keep the subway job on schedule.

Outgoing general manager Lutz was regarded by colleagues as almost indispensible in the top Metro position because of his understanding of the federal budget process and his management abilities. He is also a softball nut.

"I don't play softball well," Page said, "but I will challenge anybody to a tennis game."

Page was born in Missouri. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and holds a master's degree in public administration from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He has master's and PhD degrees in politics from Princeton.

He has held a variety of government service positions in both Washington and Seattle and was an assistant professor and assistant dean in the graduate school of public affairs at the University of Washington in 1968 and 1969. He was deputy mayor of Seattle, an appointed administrative job, in 1970 and 1971.